Today is, for me, one of the most difficult days of the year mainly because I love Christmas. I love everything about it. I’ve been listening to Christmas music since November 1 every day, all day. Our house has steadily done an advent calendar for the month of December. We even have a Santa Claus toilet seat cover in the upstairs bathroom. But today is the day when it’s officially over, commemorated by the taking down of everything. The tree, the ornaments, the garland, the wreaths – it all goes away today for another year. And doing so never ceases to put me in a bit of a funk. But it’s especially bad today.
Today I have to throw away the snowman.
For 5 years, we’ve had a snowman standing sentinel in our front yard. For 5 years, his lights have delighted our children and marked our home on cold, dark December nights. He’s made one more with us across town and survived being shoved in the shed and garage 5 times over. But two weeks ago, his head stopped working. The lights are going out. So it’s time to throw him away and move on.
Not such a big deal, right? Not for us – we throw away stuff all the time. But the snowman feels different.
I bought the snowman 5 years ago, 2 months after our little boy was diagnosed with leukemia. We bought him in the midst of being in and out of the hospital after we knew that we wouldn’t be traveling to see family at Christmas. We bought him because we thought it might be a small way to bring joy to a little boy who was in almost constant pain. And we put him right outside our big front windows so that Joshua, when he was too weak to walk up the stairs, might sit under a blanket and see him all lit up.
And he stayed lit up that year, every single night. We would bundle up and go for a walk around the neighborhood and my son would smile when we came home. He would point at the snowman and laugh.
Then the next year, when the treatments were still ongoing but had subsided somewhat, he was excited to get him out again. And we put him up, and there he stood for another year.
As I lay in bed last night thinking about everything that had to be done today to clean up after Christmas, my eyes got a little watery when I thought about the snowman. The snowman that had seen so much. The snowman who had brought our family joy in the worst of days. I thought about how much life has changed over these five years, and how even this year, with two more kids added to the mix and a cancer free little boy, they were still smiling as they picked out the place where he would go in the front yard.
There’s no big resolution at the end of this post; no big revelation that the snowman has brought me. Just a nostalgic feeling of thankfulness for small, common graces like the laughter of a child that has been brought about these 5 years by some pipe cleaners and wire hammered into the ground. And thankfulness for the ability to tell the story again to our kids of why we, for the first time 5 years ago, went to the trouble of decorating the outside of our house for Christmas.